For the longest time, J.J. Abrams and the team involved in Star Wars: The Force Awakens doubled down on the film’s use of practical effects, whether it was shooting in the blistering heat of Abu Dhabi or creating and building intricate costumes for certain actors to inhabit.
It’s a vision that paid off dividends, too; even if The Force Awakens hues closely to A New Hope, there’s a presence and, ultimately, a sense of dramatic heft to the film that was completely lost in the CG-laden fluff that Lucasfilm calls the prequels. The buck doesn’t stop at Abrams’ box office-shaking juggernaut, however, with plans in place to emphasize practical effects in Star Wars: Episode VIII and beyond.
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Hot on the heels of their Oscar nod for Best Visuals Effects, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and creature shop head Neal Scanlan talked through the use of physical sets and costumes with Screen Rant.
Corbould: Working with Rian [Johnson, director of Episode VIII], he’s very, very keen on the practical side of it… Personally, it’s something that I get a lot of excitement and satisfaction out of. I like to see my crew stretch to the limits. And I think if you can get the real practical elements in there, combined with what the digital guys can do to punch stuff up and touch it up a little bit, I think it pays big dividends when you see it on screen.
Scanlan: When we started on the project, there is a language, there is a vocabulary, there’s a world that George [Lucas] created. It’s a unique world that George created. It’s what makes Star Wars what Star Wars is… And in order to push ahead and keep the films in their own unique genre, I think we have to hold on to it. I think that’s a desire from everyone from Kathleen Kennedy downwards to try to achieve as much practically, to try to hold on to that real, tangible world that makes us feel like we know this environment in some way.
The Force Awakens may have set the bar high – Oscar high, that is – but Scanlan remains confident that the Star Wars franchise can continue to evolve in order to ensure this franchise revival is “as technically innovative as the originals were.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will serve as the next chapter in Disney’s retooled universe on December 16 of this year, before Rian Johnson takes the reins for Star Wars: Episode VIII in time for May 26, 2017.